Attitudes towards parent empowerment in early intervention: The roles of parents and professionals

Sarah Alice Hover, University of Pennsylvania


In the effort to promote parent involvement in the treatment of infants and toddlers with handicaps, early interventionists are currently striving to "empower" parents through a family-oriented approach to treatment. The proposed parent empowerment model is controversial since it calls for a shift in the traditional roles of professional as expert and parent as client. In essence, professionals are expected to downplay their expert status and defer to parents who are assumed to know what is best for their child. The purpose of this study was to question whether parents and professionals in early intervention favor this approach over a traditional clinical approach. One hundred and sixty-eight parents and 142 professionals in early intervention were surveyed using a researcher-developed measure employing vignettes followed by statements reflecting agreement with the empowerment or the traditional approach. Factor analysis, analysis of variance, and multiple regression were performed to determine whether parents and professionals differed in their preferences, whether preferences varied across phases of treatment, and what demographic and experiential variables contributed to their preferences. Quantitative and qualitative results indicated that neither parents nor professionals wholly supported the parent empowerment approach. Significant differences between parents and professionals were noted across three factors measuring attitudes towards Professional Authority, Parent Empowerment, and Listening/Support. Parents showed more agreement with professional authority and less agreement with parent empowerment than did professionals. Parents' and professionals' agreement with parent empowerment varied in the same way across four phases of treatment; however, significant differences were noted between groups and between phases. Several demographic and experiential variables were found to correlate with preferences and, in the case of professionals, predict agreement with Professional Authority, Parent Empowerment, and Listening/Support. These results generally contradict current views on parent empowerment and point to the great need for additional empirical research related to parents' and professionals' preferences, perceptions, and expectations regarding professional authority in early intervention.

Subject Area

Special education|Early childhood education

Recommended Citation

Hover, Sarah Alice, "Attitudes towards parent empowerment in early intervention: The roles of parents and professionals" (1994). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9427547.